When Perfect Dark launched on the Nintendo N64 in 2000, it made people go out and buy the console. Microsoft is hoping the same will happen again with the Xbox360. We get down and dirty with Special Agent Joanna Dark in Perfect Dark Zero to find out.
In true Hollywood style, Perfect Dark Zero (PDZ) is a prequel that picks up the Joanna Dark story before she became the crack special agent of the original game.
It the usual stuff: a secret war has begun between shadowy corporations bent on world domination. Joanna Dark and her father, Jack, are caught up in the fight for the planet's future. A routine bounty-hunting mission rips open a global conspiracy that will change Joanna's destiny forever, with you tasked to guide Ms Dark on her journey to become the perfect agent.
The first level, while useful to learn the basic moves, is nothing like the rest of the game and it’s a good thing too. Only at the end do you find out it’s a simulation and that the game isn’t a Halo wannabe filled with robots and space suits, so stick with it if you are concerned you bought something not what you were expecting.
In fact the game, from level two, takes on a completely different twist that mixes elements from the best games around.
There’s your typical gung-ho action fest with its two-handed gun-toting shootout a la Unreal Tournament, Police Squad's cover and shoot mode and even a bit of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell stealth required from time-to-time, all set to a beautifully created environment.
Gameplay is fresh and crisp with certain tasks required to push the story along, the action is non-stop from the word go and the scenery sometimes breath taking - we especially liked the Hong Kong skyline with the full moon above it as you battle it out in the foreground against a couple of Triads intent on killing you.
As the levels progress so does the skill required to complete them and the single player should keep you going for some time.
Those keen to share the experience can either play the mission as a co-op, or alternatively head online to the Xbox Live service and play deathmatch against other players.
Deathmatch options are set against the single player mission maps and are vast enough to give you plenty of room to run and hide or try to stand your ground. Either way the plethora of weapons is massive and its one of the game's strengths. Everything from shotguns to plasma rifles with grenades and knifes thrown in for good measure.
As a special agent you also get a host of other goodies like lockpicks and audio binoculars so you can hear what the bad guys are saying.
Where Perfect Dark succeeds over Quake 2 or Call of Duty is that the female lead character and the storyline are strong and innovative.
It's not just the retelling of the Second World War or a grunt on an alien planet fighting a raging horde, but a story of espionage and bad guys here on earth.
Like other Xbox360 games, Rare has utilised the potential of the new console's powers perfectly to create a gaming world that is unlike anything we've seen before on the PS2 or the Xbox.
Perfect Dark maybe following Hollywood movies with the idea for the prequel, but luckily for us, it hasn't followed Hollywood's constant mistake of special effects over storyline. If you want a good first person shooter for your console from day one then this is the one to go for.